Sudan

Denial of Darfur rape case by UNAMID shocks Tabit victims

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TABIT(11 Nov.) -

The villagers of Tabit are shocked after Unamid concluded that it had not found “any evidence or information” about the reported mass rape on Monday. The UN-AU peacekeeping mission visited the village, accompanied by government officials, six days after a verification patrol was denied access to investigate the mass rape of many women and girls in Tabit.

A delegation of five members of the Coordination Committee of Refugees and Displaced Persons in Darfur also visited the village: “We just returned from Tabit on Friday with a delegation, after two days of investigation. There we met 60 women and girls, we looked into their eyes while they told us they were raped by soldiers from 8 pm [on Friday 31 October, ed.] until 5 am.

“Then we read the Unamid statement. It was deeply shocking {audio quote 1} … How can they conclude the rape did not take place? We talked to those women and young girls. We spoke to seven minors, who were raped. We have very strong evidence,” the leader of the committee told Radio Dabanga {audio quote 2}. The committee will hand in a more detailed report on the mass rape in the next coming days, urging the international community not to believe Unamid and to start independent inquiries.

Unamid reports not finding evidence

Despite the mounting evidence that the mass rape took place, Unamid published a statement on Monday 10 November that it “neither found any evidence, nor received any information regarding the allegations in the media during the period in question”. It did not mention that its verification team was accompanied by the government's security officials.

Prior to the arrival of the Unamid delegation in Tabit and surrounding settlements, the commissioner of Tawila locality, Alumda Alhadi Abdallah Abdelrahman, openly threatened the population that any person who would speak to Unamid about the rape, “would face the consequences”. “No one even dared to speak up to Unamid, they just had to deny everything in front of them,” several attendants explained to Radio Dabanga.

Witnesses' reports

Radio Dabanga last week recorded testimonies of several victims and two local leaders. They confirmed that government forces raped around 200 women and girls on Friday 31 October, when the soldiers were looking for a comrade who had gone missing in the area. They suspected the local population for being responsible for his disappearance.

One of the witnesses described to Radio Dabanga the arrival of Unamid in Tabit on Sunday 9 November: “They only passed-by on the main road, but they did not come to us”. According to a Unamid officer, even national security staff, police forces, and military personnel accompanied the convoy of the UN delegation. “I think that every Unamid staff member was accompanied by at least three people, from the security, police, or military. No one could speak freely to anyone. When we asked some people in Tabit, they only answered: ‘You should speak to the army commander and the authorities’.” Unamid confirmed that it also interviewed the local Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) Commander during its visit.

Khalid Ewais, a reporter for Alarabiya TV, tweeted on Monday that a source in Tabit confirmed to him that on 8 November, the army commander and several soldiers ordered the villagers not to talk to Unamid. “It was very clear for the team that the villagers felt fear, and were not able to talk,” his source said. He added that Sudanese soldiers were recording interviews with their phones and taking photos.

'50 women treated'

A woman who works in a group that helps victims of the rape said that Unamid did not come into the area where they live, and where they faced the soldiers' attacks. “We treated at least 50 women. We did it ourselves, but there is nothing to treat them with. We can only throw warm water on them. I am very disappointed with the situation. Many girls still suffer. We can't send them anywhere; we treat them with only water, like I said”.

In addition, the women's group said it had not seen anyone from Unamid: “No, none came here to our area.” Unamid said that during their 3-hour visit, it interviewed “a variety of Tabit residents; including community leaders, ordinary men and women, teachers and students”.

The women speaking to Radio Dabanga cried in disbelief when they heard about he conclusion of Unamid: “Where is that? How come [they say] nothing happened? And what about all those girls? Here they are suffering…” Two witnesses said that they are ready to testify if they can be protected: “We are ready and I have enough evidence to show, there are many abused girls and they should be medically examined.”

Another witness, who gave the account of his sister being raped, said that he found it painful that they “cannot bring the victims to a hospital, because we need a permit to go there and they will never give it to us”.

Unamid concluded its press statement with its intention to conduct further follow-up actions on the matter, including possible further investigations and patrols “in coordination with relevant host authorities and in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement between the Government of Sudan and Unamid”.

Related:

'Mass rape in Darfur is impossible, UN permitted to area’: Sudan army (10 November 2014)

Commander admits to mass rape by soldiers in North Darfur (3 November 2014)